the transition to digital journalism

Web First Publishing

Some newspapers and other news operations are now adopting a "web-first" or "web-centric" approach to organizing their work flow. This means having reporters and editors think first about reporting and producing text and multimedia stories for the web, then writing a text story for the print edition.

This also is sometimes referred to as "reverse publishing."

It marks a major shift from the old "shovelware" approach of newspapers in the 1990s, in which stories were written first for the newspaper and then shoveled onto the web, often with few, if any, changes.

Then in the early 2000s "convergence" strategies started to gain traction at some media organizations, with newspapers, TV stations and radio stations partnering to produce content for a website. But producing stories for the traditional news or broadcast products usually still had top priority.

TBO.com, a partnership of the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV Channel 8 launched in 2000, was one of the early examples of this move toward convergence (see Alan Mutter's more recent analysis of how well this partnership performed).

In 2008, the Tampa Tribune moved toward a web-first approach.

“People need to stop looking at TBO.com as an add on to The Tampa Tribune. The truth is that The Tampa Tribune is an add on to TBO," Tribune Managing Editor Janet Coats said in July 2008.

In a web-first approach, the main focus often is on breaking news and getting those stories on the web as fast as possible, on a 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week news cycle.

Some publications have set up "continuous news desks" with dedicated staffs that produce round-the-clock breaking news for the web. The New York Times and Washington Post, for example, have continuous news desks (on the Times see "Talk to the Newsroom: Continuous News Correspondent"; on the Post see "Ask the Post").

Other publications have emphasized getting all reporters and editors to focus on putting breaking news and other stories on the web, rather than having a separate staff handle story updates for the Internet edition.

In these cases, the publications usually must undergo major reorganizations of their newsrooms and try to train most or all of their editorial staff in writing for the web and producing multimedia.

Examples of newspapers and other media that adopted a web-first or multimedia strategy

Readings and Resources